Bill Russell x Muhammad Ali x Jim Brown x Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The other day I saw someone post this picture as a means to make a point about the difference between the way athletes used to protest and the way they protest now (turning their warm up gear inside out). They suggested the LA Clippers way of handling their situation is less than because it didn’t look like this.
These people obviously know nothing about context.
Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are all seated here in support of Ali’s choice not to fight in the Vietnam War. It is a powerful picture. All of the men pictured here have track records of fighting racial and social injustice, which is why they deserve all the praise, all the respect for not only what they did in their sport, but out of their sport.
But if you’re using this picture to make a point, you’re short-changing the current issue and diluting the picture above. This was not only a different time, but a different issue entirely. For one, none of these men pictured had to miss a game to appear at this conference on June 4, 1967 (Russell’s season was over, Brown had retired, and Abdul-Jabbar just finished his Player-of-the-Year season at UCLA). That isn’t to take away from anything these men did, it’s just to say, pictures deserve context.
Learn more about the picture above, by reading this article, and don’t use it to take shots at what the men on the L.A. Clippers are going through today.